If I’m ever granted three wishes, one of them will surely be “I want a pet”. The pet could be anything – a dog, a cat or an ant eater. The last is recency effect; I just read a piece on a ‘show-stopping beauty’ of an ant-eater at London Zoo, and how she will enthrall late night visitors, and I’m already dreaming how wonderful it will be to wake up to that long snout every morning. But enough digressing – back to pets – I’m possessed by the idea that one’s life is incomplete without creatures to share the house. The creature could be big or small; it could be attractive, but good looks are not terribly important; and while it will be nice if it’s cuddly, I’m quite happy if it prefers to just be admired from a distance too.
Actually, I’ve resigned myself to the “admired from a distance” lately; because, while I’m potty about pets, and the family is very taken by the idea of a dog and/ or cat, we can’t dream of either due to severe allergies that run in the family. So we’ve struck a compromise; we have a trough of water in the balcony, and we leave out puffed rice and peanuts. It attracts more wildlife than we ever imagined. And we call them our “pets”, though they’re hardly that…
They’re the crows and pigeons of the neighbourhood; the woodpeckers and mynahs and sparrows; and squirrels. Lots of them. And they all turn up in our balcony every morning and look hungry and make us feel guilty if we ever wake up after 8a.m. Which makes me think – just how much more responsible would we feel if we had an * actual * pet? One that was completely dependent on us for food, water, shelter and medical care? And what an experience for a child, to live around one and care for it, just like you would care for your infant? If that won’t teach a child responsibility, what will?
Lucky people then, no, the ones who can have pets at home? So why doesn’t everybody? Why do people give excuses like “surely, I will end up doing all the work, like walking the dog/ cleaning the fish tank”. So what? Isn’t it good enough if the child does it 50% of the time, to begin with? Because, growing up with an animal is like a million life lessons taught in a span of a year. There’s love and loss; there’s caring and sharing (try keeping a dog away from a biscuit it * wants *) ; and there are those very useful lessons in reproductive biology that a child simply absorbs.
And that’s why my heart breaks everytime the daughter says she wants a wriggling puppy or a haughty kitten; there was a time when we almost gave in, only for the asthma to flare, and the paediatrician asked me to choose between the cat and the daughter. She often shows me pictures of her friend’s dogs and cats, and we go “awww” at them; we make up stories about bull dog’s wrinkles and kittens tails. I guess, if I’m ever granted three wishes, the first one has to be “pls make my family grow out of their allergies to all things furry and feathery.”